OLYMPIA - The city's Volunteers in Parks program swung back into action Saturday after the holidays as groups of high school students and adults fanned out into the recently renamed Grass Lake Nature Park to remove invasive plants and clean up trails by putting down fresh gravel.
The former Grass Lake Refuge is a 172.4-acre park on the city’s west side at 814 Kaiser Road N.W. It has three lakes: Louise Lake and two smaller lakes called Grass lakes east and west.
About 40 people, mostly Olympia High School students, volunteered their time to tackle Himalayan blackberries, widen trails and take on the ubiquitous Scotch broom, a noxious weed that is so prevalent in South Sound that come spring, its eye-catching yellow flowers can be seen throughout Thurston County.
Leading the charge and organizing volunteers Saturday were park ranger Sylvana Niehuser and parks program specialist Mike Baker. The Volunteers in Parks program takes place nearly every weekend, and upcoming tasks include cleanup projects at Burri, Trillium and Yauger parks, Niehuser said. Before the holidays, volunteers tackled English ivy and trail work at Priest Point Park’s Ellis Cove.
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The students participate as part of a biology class requirement at Olympia High School. They volunteer a certain amount of time per semester and were busy creating piles of Scotch broom or widening trails.
Some adults helped out, too, including Kevin Ritzer of Olympia and his son Reagan, 10.
They were busy cutting grass away from the base of trees and had found a scenic, open spot where they could work and also view Louise Lake.
Kevin Ritzer said he was introduced to the program when his daughter attended Olympia High School, but he enjoys the volunteer work so much that he has continued to do it almost weekly.
Ritzer, who retired from the military after a 20-year career, said volunteering was in keeping with the “service before self” credo he learned in the military.
“I enjoy getting out and staying active. It makes sitting on the couch a whole lot better,” he said in anticipation of Saturday’s Seattle Seahawks playoff game. Reagan, too, said he enjoys the outdoors.
Olympia’s Volunteers in Parks program meets at 10 a.m. Saturdays. Here are some upcoming events.
Burri Park: Jan. 22.
Trillium Park: Jan. 29.
Yauger Park: Feb. 5.
For more information, call 360-753-8365.